Movie Review: THE DEVIL’S DOLLS (2016)

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller THE DEVIL’S DOLLS by director Padraig Reynolds. Since it describe things rather nicely, I will turn to IMDB for the plot description:

In the aftermath of the hunt for a serial killer, an ancient curse consumes a city, causing a series of brutal murders and pitting a detective against the clock to save his daughter’s life. 

The curse comes in the form of a small box of worry dolls that were kept by the serial killer. Unknown to the person keeping the box, the dolls hold all of the killers fears within them and, when they come into contact with people, impart those fears to whoever happens to touch them. The setup felt akin to an old “X-Files” episode as it ties together the procedural with mythology.

Sadly, the procedural aspects are not nearly as satisfying as they are filled with typical dialogue, melodramatic music, and familiar tropes.  Nearly every character presented during this portion of the feature either had a stock character background or spouted off stereotypically unconvincing dialogue.  Try as I might, this portion of the film just never worked for me as I felt like I had seen it before on many primetime drama series.

Luckily, we are saved from the typical procedural portions by the more interesting mythological horror aspects.  This part is where the picture is firing on all cylinders as it successfully twists a Latin American legend while marrying it with splatter horror effects. These grotesque effects are both shocking in their brutality and well executed in their composition.  While I am not a huge fan of gross out violence, I could appreciate it here as it changed the pacing of the rest of the piece by adding a sense of urgency to the detective’s hunt.  This was the portion of the feature that I found easy to connect with as the sense of creativity shown in these flashes of violence made this feel like a completely different film.

Given how much more interesting the opening scene and second act were, I really wish we had been able to spend more time delving into the mythology.  Since the dolls are a manifestation of the killer, Henry’s, worries, it would have been interesting to still have him around during the course of events either orchestrating things or taunting the police from behind bars.  By keeping him in play they could have given more background on each worry contained by the individual dolls which could have shaped the various kills.  The end of this picture leaves room for a sequel so I hope that any further entries in this franchise put the mythology first.

All in all, this ended up feeling like two entirely different features with one half of it showing some promise.  The entertainingly gory kills help to make up for the more typical aspects. People who want to see what “Criminal Minds” would look like by way of MANIAC (1980) should try this one out for size.

THE DEVIL’S DOLLS opens September 16th in select theaters, VOD and via digital platforms from IFC Midnight.

The film’s opening night will be at Hollywood’s Arena Cinema and will include a Q&A with cast and crew on September 16th – click HERE for more information

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